Appeals denied in Bradenton Beach zoning case

More than a year and $16,000 later, Bradenton Beach has presided in a zoning case initiated by a planning and zoning board member.

An appeal was denied by the special master, following review of testimony and written closing arguments.

Special master Lisa Gonzalez Moore issued her final order on the case June 7.

John Metz, a resident and member of the Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board, testified the city violated its comprehensive plan when building official Steve Gilbert signed for renovations to a fourplex at 308 Gulf Drive S., adjacent to his home.

The property was purchased in September 2014 by George and Wendy Kokolis.

Metz contended the grandfathered non-conforming use of the short-term rental was discontinued after the fourplex was left unoccupied more than 18 months and, according to the city’s land-development code, the Kokolis’ shouldn’t have been issued a permit to remodel the units.

Moore determined residential use of the property was conforming at the time the 2015 building permit was issued because this use was permitted under the planned development category for the C2 district in which it was zoned.

Metz claimed the city should have considered the property abandoned, alleging it was vacant 18-months.

Metz claimed abandonment requires discontinuation of the non-conforming use.

Moore stated in the order that “the structure was non-conforming because it exceeded the permitted density, however, the residential use was not abandoned because it was not discontinued for a period of 18 months or more.”

Additionally, Metz said the city violated the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s rule restricting remodeling to 50 percent of a structure’s assessed value.

In the final order, Moore stated Metz failed to make a timely appeal to the Kokolises appraisal, changes to their construction plans did not expand the structure or use and did not exceed the FEMA restriction.

In conclusion, Moore wrote that Metz failed to prove Gilbert’s issuance of a certificate of completion on the property was “unreasonable, erroneous or illegal.”

The hearing began March 13 with Metz’s testimony, and was continued to April 17, when testimony from city building official Steve Gilbert and land planner Alan Garrett was heard.

Moore continued the case to May 15 to review documents and receive written closing arguments from the attorneys.

In response to the June 7 ruling, Metz said, “I’m not happy with it and I’m going to have to decide what I’m going to do about it.”

Bradenton Beach commissioners will discuss the final order at their next meeting, which will be at noon Thursday, June 15, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

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